The latest computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS) and condition monitoring (CM) technology – from vibration monitoring and lubricant analysis for wear, to thermal imaging – can optimise the scheduling of maintenance work. CM can predict when bearings need attention or when gearboxes might need replacing.
However, repairing gearboxes can prove 40% less costly than replacing them and often results in better performance than the original kit, said gearbox specialist Renold Gears, which claimed to be able to repair any gearbox to its original specifications or higher.
“By selecting, maintaining and monitoring critical components inside rotating plant and machines such as gearboxes, electric motors, pumps and fans, food and beverage processing companies can improve their plant efficiencies, eliminate production downtime and increase the operating life and reliability of plant equipment,” said Dr Steve Lacey, engineering manager at bearing and condition monitoring specialist Schaeffler UK.
Downtime in food and drink processing can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds a day, said Lacey. Maintenance costs for a typical manufacturer are around 15–20% of total costs, he added.
The trouble is, because of time and resource constraints, maintenance often becomes reactive, with problems around the plant dealt with as they occur rather than in a proactive, planned manner, said Lacey.
FAG SmartCheck is a CM device from Schaeffler, which is used for the online monitoring of process-critical equipment, including motors, drives, pumps and gearboxes. It can be used to monitor vibration and temperature, as well as a range of other machine and process-specific parameters.
Elsewhere, condition-based maintenance specialist AV Technology, has been working with UK malt and malted ingredients firm Muntons for a number of years on a CM programme that has helped the company to increase production while cutting costs.
According to AV Technology’s projects engineer Steve Mottershead, way back in October 2007 Muntons implemented a CM programme. This now makes use of vibration analysis, infrared thermal imaging and visual surveillance to reduce the unplanned stoppages Muntons had been experiencing. Muntons uses a MAINTelligence CMMS from AVT Technology to manage its assets and lubricant use in conjunction with CM.
Early on, the CM programme highlighted a number of problems with critical machinery. For example, the gear boxes on mash vessels needed to be replaced every six weeks. CM gave engineers sufficient notice of impending failure. This enabled essential gearbox maintenance to be planned around the production schedule and replacement to be made before failure, avoiding unplanned downtime. CM also helped to identify problems in a number of other critical areas.
In the years since the CM programme has been operating at Muntons, there has been a marked increase in reliability of equipment, claimed Mottershead.